SWITZERLAND, January 16, 2024 (Baern Today, translated from German): In Hinduism, the ashes of the deceased are traditionally scattered into a river. A Hindu association has recently been officially allowed to carry out the ritual on the Aare in Bern – but only 20 times a year. Priest Sasikumar Tharmalingam explains what the approval means for his association. “This is a big milestone for us,” says Sasikumar Tharmalingam. He is a Hindu priest and pastor at the Saivanerikoodam association in the House of Religions in Bern. The association has been allowed to carry out water burials on the Aare in Bern since last autumn. “It’s an incredible relief,” continued Tharmalingam. “We normally send the urns to Varanasi, India, to the holy river Ganges.” But that doesn’t always work. In addition, it is important for the second generation, whose parents lived in Switzerland for 20 to 30 years, to be able to have the funeral here in the area. “That’s why it’s a big gift for us that we can now do it here,” says the Hindu priest.

In order to be able to carry out water burials in the canton of Bern, the Saivanerikoodam association had to obtain a so-called water protection permit. As David Leutwyler, representative for church and religious affairs for the canton of Bern, explains, the permit allows the Hindu association to carry out a maximum of 20 burials per year. The place where the ritual takes place is also determined. “It is an easily accessible location on the outskirts of the city where other uses are small. Otherwise people don’t swim or do sports there.” In view of the around 60,000 Tamils who currently live in Switzerland, the 20 approved water burials sound like a small number. “We tried to define a realistic number,” says David Leutwyler. According to him, the number is appropriate. Sasikumar Tharmalingam also thinks so, as he explains. However, he also says: “In the future we will have to look at it again. There are currently around 10,000 retired Tamils in Switzerland, and there will be even more in the future.”